Does this sound familiar to you at all?
You're at the doctor's office, waiting. Lots of waiting. The receptionist needs to talk to you about insurance and whether the address they have on file is current. She is annoyed that you are there. You are annoyed that you are there. Plus, you're not feeling well to begin with so you may not be on your best behavior. After assuring the receptionist that your information is accurate (after all, you think, I've been living in the same place for the last 15 years! Nothing has changed! Why must we do this each and every time I come in??), you wait some more. People around you are coughing and sneezing. You are becoming increasingly annoyed at the waiting because you become convinced you are actually getting worse, not better because of the germs flying in the stifling room. Finally, a nurse comes, calls your last name and three others and together you troop to the rooms one after another, where you will wait for the doctor. Because you were in a hurry, you forgot your book, and now are faced with the prospect of reading an US Weekly or People magazine (and one that is six months old at that). Someone who doesn't really speak to you other than "roll up your sleeve" and "step on the scale" takes your blood pressure and reveals the bad news about your weight. That scale is never right; always a few pounds heavy. After these intrusions, you are back to your US Weekly. You hear someone you believe to be the doctor outside several times, but he never comes in, and you grow annoyed that he's just socializing outside with his staff while you're waiting for him. How arrogant. Does he think his time is more valuable than mine? By the time the doctor does come in, you have vilified him. And, you are feeling physically better -- your throat doesn't really even hurt much anymore, you wonder why you came in the first place.
Now, picture this instead.
You go to the doctor's office. You step up to the receptionist and she says "Good morning. I will be right with you." You meet her eyes and say: "Thank you." She turns back to you and says: "I believe we have all your information. Still with Blue Cross? And still on Maple Drive?" You say yes to both. She says: "Have a seat and someone will be right with you, okay? I'm so sorry you're not feeling well." You: "Thank you so much." You sit down and survey those around you. There are many who are much worse off than you. A man to your right holds his head in his hands and is clearly suffering. You say a prayer for him quietly. The woman to your left has a baby on her hip and a tissue in her hand. Her cheeks are rosy, her cough is deep. You say a prayer for her. How hard it is to be sick, even if it's just a cold, and take care of a baby at the same time. Happens every day all over the world, but you've been there and you know. A nurse appears and calls your first name. She walks next to you. "Not feeling so good, huh?" she says, looking at you and smiling slightly. "Yeah, not really," you say, returning her eye contact. "I'm sorry. Someone will be in shortly," she says. "Thanks." You sit down in the room and laugh when you see the magazines piled up. A nurse comes in. "Hi there. Sorry you're not feeling well. Let's take your blood pressure and get your weight. You can take your shoes off before stepping on the scale." With those obligations out of the way, she says: "The doctor is running a little behind, but should be about 10 more minutes." You thank her. The doctor appears, looks you in the eye, you feel cared for and that he will listen to you long enough to know exactly what the problem is and how best to treat you. "I hope you start to feel better soon. Get some rest if you can."
Can you IMAGINE if this is how EVERY SINGLE encounter you had was EVERY SINGLE day? Probably not. After a recent experience returning an item at a store, I started imagining, dreaming, of a world in which the second scenario might happen all the time. Not some, or most, but all. What if every time I saw someone, I greeted them? What if I thought people actually did care that I was feeling sick (not just my family and friends)? What if when I saw someone suffering, I prayed for them right then and there and then reached out to offer a word of encouragement or support, or simple presence? What if I was able to say the kind word, the compassionate thing, every time I had an opportunity? What if I came to expect the best from me and from every person I dealt with? It's hard to even envision, I know.
But, this is what God calls us to if we are followers of Christ. And it's not just surface politeness. It's not fake interest. It is truth. It is fruit of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Gal. 5:22) In Ephesians, Paul said: "Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." (Eph. 6:20) And, in 2 Corinthians, he said: "We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God." (2 Corin. 5:20)
If you follow Christ, you are his ambassador. Ambassador means "an authorized messenger or representative." You carry Christ's name. You have been authorized. You are his representative. I know! Think of all you have done and said . . . and, yet . . . it is who you are, who you are becoming.
Does this seem just slightly hard to you? A little intimidating? Like you might not get it right every time? Like you haven't gotten it right in quite some time? Me too. But "to experience one's closeness to God is also to experience the obligations to be God, to be the agent of His power and love." (M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled) To have a relationship with God through Christ means to have new obligations, to carry his name, to be the agent of His unfailing love, patience, kindness, mercy and grace.
Let us pray that words would be given us so that we would make known to those around us the "mystery of the gospel." That we may declare God's unfailing love, patience, kindness, mercy, and grace in words, in action, and in all that we are. Why? Because we can't contain it because of the love, patience, kindness, mercy and grace God has shown us. Why? Because people will want what we have -- a relationship with Christ. And, this relationship changes not just an otherwise unpleasant experience at a doctor's office but an eternity.